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3 Reasons Tennis Players Need a Strong Core

“Core training” became all the craze more than 10 years ago when I was just starting out in the fitness industry. Over the years, the idea of what is effective core training has gone through many stages, from not needing to do anything but deadlift and squat to people trying to do squats standing on Bosu balls. Whilst the methodology may vary drastically from person to person, there is one thing that any good coach will agree on - having a strong core is critical for both general day-to-day life and sporting performance. In this article, we won’t touch too much on the methodology but focus instead on why core training is important.

Before we begin, I want to give a very quick summary of what your “core” is. When talking about the core, we are referring to the part of the body between the diaphragm and your pelvic floor. Your abdominal muscles are just a tiny portion of what makes up the core. It includes the hips, lower back, stomach, and pelvis.

So why is core training so important for tennis players…..

#1 - Injury Prevention

Tennis and racquet sports such as badminton and squash involve lots of intense, high-loading movements on the body. They involve lots of rotation, sprinting, changing direction, and jumping. In all of these movements involved in the sport, the core is constantly working to protect the spine whilst also helping to allow the body to achieve maximum power production.

Maintaining a strong core can help you avoid all types of injuries, including muscle strains, joint sprains, and even back and shoulder issues.

Here are a couple of examples of how a strong core can help to prevent injuries in tennis players:

1 - An athlete might be powerful and explosive with a strong serve and powerful shot, but if his core is weak he will constantly be overloading the body when rotating, which can lead to pulling the back, abdominal muscles, or muscles linked to the hips.

2 - Secondly, racquet sports such as tennis involve lots of fast-paced changes of direction, and trunk stability is critical for allowing us to change direction effectively. If we don’t have that stability, not only will we lose force on the change of direction through poor mechanics, but the athlete will also be more likely to roll an ankle, pull a groin, etc.

#2 - Transfer or Force

There is a famous quote in the S&C industry which is - “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe”, In the world of S&C the phrase roughly translates to ‘you can be as powerful as you want (the cannon) but if you have an unstable core (the canoe) then you won’t be able to use the strength you’ve built.’

Racquet sports involve many athletic movements such as sprinting, backpedaling, jumping, hitting, shuffling, pivoting, rotating, etc. All these movements require energy transfer between the upper and lower body that flows through the core. Take a serve, for example, when you throw the ball up for the serve, the player must then generate power through the legs to drive up into the air, open up through their thoracic spine and shoulder as they then smash the ball at speeds up to 100mph upwards. If a player is lacking in core stability they will be unable to effectively transfer that force from the push-off through to the wrist where they finally make contact with the ball.

Therefore, as a tennis player or any racquet sport athlete, having a strong core is essential if you don’t want power leakages in the kinetic chain. Everything should start from the core and build from there!

#3 - Balance & Stability

A strong core allows us to be well connected to the ground. If we are able to “brace” well we can turn ourselves from 70kg to 100kg. Have you ever tried lifting someone when they are relaxed and then tried lifting them again when they have bent their knees, braced their core, and grounded themselves to the floor? It is a whole new mission.

Having a strong core brings balance and stability, allowing us to be more comfortable in different positions, whether on one leg or two. By having a strong and stable base we are able to jump, turn and hit shots with more confidence and less probability of losing balance and putting ourselves in a vulnerable position!

These are the top 3 reasons why tennis players need to understand and implement effective core training. Yes, I could give many more, but hopefully, these are enough for you to realise that you need to be integrating core training into your overall fitness programme.

If you are interested in learning how to train your core effectively (not just doing sit-ups until the cows come home), from choosing the right exercises to how to add them into your routine, I am running a 2-hour workshop at Surbiton Racket & Fitness Club on the 4th February - don’t miss it! You can buy tickets by clicking this link!


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